This year, we launched one of our favorite (and weirdest) columns that, over the course of the past twelve months, has led us to explore some truly unexpected corners of the drinks world. Dubbed “Shit We Found on eBay,” the series has been an opportunity for us to buy a slew of bizarre bar tools, vintage cocktail paraphernalia and even a couple of G-rated adult toys—all in the name of journalism.
Initially, we really weren’t sure what we’d find—or what there’d be to tell our readers about our occasionally questionable purchases. So imagine our surprise when we discovered a rare yo-yo-ing cocktail shaker, a 1960s relic made by the creator of the Magic 8 Ball; a set of 500 misprinted koozies sold by a dubious Texas seller with a robust selection of bank deposit money bags; or a hand-shaped, drink-delivering robot that brought us to a subterranean toy repair store off of Times Square.
As it turns out, you tended to like these columns, too. In fact, we’ve given away every item we purchased to one of our readers. That’s why, to close out 2016, we’ve decided to say, “So long,” with a little over a week’s worth of eBay: For the next eight days, we’ll be revealing a new item here, telling you all about it and offering you the opportunity to win it on Facebook (to enter, just head over to our page). Yes, some of our purchases are less rare than others. But we’re happy to have them, just the same. We think you will be, too.
A Collection of Vintage Whistle Swizzles
On the first day of our eight-day-long eBay giveaway, we’re offering up a big handful of vintage swizzle sticks. Equipped with hanging whistles and fashioned out of glittered plastic, these are representative of a pretty common midcentury trope: In the 1950s and ‘60s, refined molding technology had opened the doors for peak swizzle kitsch, which saw the likes of tree-shaped sticks with tiny coconuts, or those topped with miniature harmonicas. Considering the swizzle stick’s well-documented modern comeback, these guys should feel right at home here in the 21st century.
The 1950s “Thirst Quencher” Cocktail Shaker
Once a purely utilitarian object, it didn’t take long for the cocktail shaker to evolve from mere functionality to the height of sophistication to novelty item to everything in between. Though not an original, this Thirst Extinguisher cocktail shaker belongs to a long line of novelty shakers that ranged in shape from binoculars to armored tanks (get it? “Tanked!”), whose irony was well suited to the Prohibition era in which they were made—a time when, according to Albert Stevens Crockett, author of The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, “the words ‘drunk’ and ‘souse’ became humorous rather than disreputable terms.”
The shaker reads: “THIRST EXTINGUISHER. DISPENSE FREELY FOR BEST RESULTS. TO REFILL CALL YOUR HOST.” A variation on one of the costliest shakers of the 1930s (which can still be procured from the original London retailer for just under $10,000), this Thirst Extinguisher shaker is indeed timeless. While much has changed since the heyday of the novelty cocktail shaker, some things never do: Ample drink and a good gag make for great hosts.
The Official Sex and the City Cosmo Glass
In its six-season run, Sex and the City followed a group of 30-something women in New York City, all the while damning spinsterhood, normalizing the concept of the $400 shoe and launching a rabbit-shaped sex toy into popular consciousness. Most famously, however—and by some accounts, most regrettably—it introduced an entire generation of drinkers to a now-famed liquid accessory: the Cosmopolitan.
Sure, the Martini glass might be dated, but if you’re secure enough to drink a pink cocktail out of this very official-looking novelty chalice, chances are, you don’t care.
A Trio of Vintage Booze Hats
Why merely express your drinking preferences at the bar when you could share them with the world all the time? As part of a long line of promotional items produced by the alcohol industry, these vintage hats are more than just stylish accessories: They’re pieces of marketing history. The trio will make known your deep-seated love of Coors Light, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey everywhere you go—not to mention make ordering across a crowded bar as easy as pointing to your head.
The Dial-a-Drink Bar Tool Set
Born in the 1930s, when Prohibition had forced drinkers indoors and the Great Depression had kept them there, the cocktail party became an institution on both sides of the Atlantic that’d remain popular for decades. With it, too, came a market for home barware, including everything from novelty shakers to glassware sets to ornamented cocktail picks. One such example, this Dial-a-Drink set, originally sold by Shields of Fifth Avenue, offers four revolving, miniature recipe books cleverly hidden inside bar tools and broken down by spirit. From vodka to whiskey, from the Gibson to the Old-Fashioned, this is retro sprung into full gear.
The John Wayne Decanter
That anyone would want to dispense their whiskey directly from the neck of one John Wayne, American, is a nebulous concept at best, but these figurines are nonetheless an oft-seen motif in the realm of novelty decanters. Along with a slew of Elvises and Ford Model A’s, this Duke decanter was likely made sometime in the 1970s.
Despite having been dubbed the “Frankenstein monster” of the industry by a Jim Beam ad director in 1968, the trend towards gimmicky decanters remained strong enough to warrant their near-constant production for decades—though they would eventually fall out of favor in the early ‘90s. Often released just in time for the holidays, these were real collectibles, not unlike the yearly Hess Truck.
The Retro Wind-Up Walking Shot Glass
Though it’s hard to imagine this wind-up walking jigger making its way across Don Draper’s desk when a Scotch was in order, this vintage bar item nonetheless represents a relic of midcentury drinking. It is perhaps not as iconic as a teak bar cart or the three-Martini lunch, but what it lacks in classic qualities, it makes up for in irrepressible charm. Exhibit A: pretend feet.
The Ultimate Random Globe Decanter
If you envision yourself as the sort of person who will someday have a wood-paneled library full of bottle-green furniture, firewood, giant desks and leather-bound books, this decanter is for you. When we bought it, we’d thought it would be made of glass. It is not. It is made of plastic and pretty lightweight—a little less in line with that fancy vision of our future selves, and closer to the items that fall into the “As Seen on TV” category of eBay’s depths (which we dove into when we collected a whole set of five multicolored wine harnesses). Nonetheless, we’ve seen for decades that alcohol dispensers disguised as otherwise innocent items will never cease to be charming.